God Is Everywhere 2012
Pre digital I had a strong preference for shooting black and white film. There were a few reasons for this, the main one being that I felt I had a lot of control over the final product. Through careful exposure and development I would ideally produce a good negative from which to print in the darkroom. Here, of course, is where the magic happened. Good choice of paper and chemistry, cropping, dodging, burning in, toning and all the little tricks one could apply to interpret the negative and, hopefully, produce something of substance, and even perhaps, beauty.
With colour, of course, I didn’t have this kind of control. I did shoot a fair amount of colour transparency (slide film) but often felt that all I was doing was producing ‘pretty pictures’. I would many times have an image in my minds eye of what I would like to be able to see, as a colour print, but the limitations of the materials available at the time wouldn’t allow it.
I always found it amusing that when I would tell people that I liked to work with black a white, they would often respond with ” ooh, I just love black and white!”. I have a theory about this and it is simply, that a monotone photograph is a lot easier to ‘read’ and to understand than a colour photograph. During the seventies and eighties, there were a number of photographers working in colour whose images I greatly admired. Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz were two in particular who demonstrated to me how sophisticated colour photography could be and, in the process, convinced me that I was better off sticking with black and white!
I don’t know that my understanding of colour has improved any, but with the coming of the digital age working with it has completely opened up for me. I love it. Being able to pre-visualise an image, in colour, and having the tools to create it, is for me, the marvel of digital photography. Even worth all the pain of having to learn a whole new bunch of tricks (and we are talking about a fairly old dog here!).
Still, black and white still has great appeal for me. There are some photographs that just scream out for it.